thymifolia dimorphic. L. Hyssopifolia homostyled. Nesaea verticillata trimorphic. Lagerstroemia, nature doubtful. Oxalis, trimorphic species of. O. Valdiviana. O. Regnelli, the illegitimate unions quite barren. O. speciosa. O. sensitiva. Homostyled species of Oxalis. Pontederia, the one monocotyledonous genus known to include heterostyled species.

In the previous chapters various heterostyled dimorphic plants have been described, and now we come to heterostyled trimorphic plants, or those which present three forms. These have been observed in three families, and consist of species of Lythrum and of the allied genus Nesaea, of Oxalis and Pontederia. In their manner of fertilisation these plants offer a more remarkable case than can be found in any other plant or animal.

Lythrum salicaria.

(FIGURE 4.10. Diagram of the flowers of the three forms of Lythrum salicaria, in their natural position, with the petals and calyx removed on the near side: enlarged six times. Top: Long-styled. Middle: Mid-styled. Bottom: Short-styled. The dotted lines with the arrows show the directions in which pollen must be carried to each stigma to ensure full fertility.)

The pistil in each form differs from that in either of the other forms, and in each there are two sets of stamens different in appearance and function. But one set of stamens in each form corresponds with a set in one of the other two forms. Altogether this one species includes three females or female organs and three sets of male organs, all as distinct from one another as if they belonged to different species; and if smaller functional differences are considered, there are five distinct sets of males. Two of the three hermaphrodites must coexist, and pollen must be carried by insects reciprocally from one to the other, in order that either of the two should be fully fertile; but unless all three forms coexist, two sets of stamens will be wasted, and the organisation of the species, as a whole, will be incomplete. On the other hand, when all three hermaphrodites coexist, and pollen is carried from one to the other, the scheme is perfect; there is no waste of pollen and no false co-adaptation. In short, nature has ordained a most complex marriage-arrangement, namely a triple union between three hermaphrodites,--each hermaphrodite being in its female organ quite distinct from the other two hermaphrodites and partially distinct in its male organs, and each furnished with two sets of males.

The three forms may be conveniently called, from the unequal lengths of their pistils, the LONG-STYLED, MID-STYLED, and SHORT-STYLED. The stamens also are of unequal lengths, and these may be called the LONGEST, MID-LENGTH, and SHORTEST. Two sets of stamens of different length are found in each form. The existence of the three forms was first observed by Vaucher, and subsequently more carefully by Wirtgen ; but these botanists, not being guided by any theory or even suspicion of their functional differences, did not perceive some of the most curious points of difference in their structure. (4/1. Vaucher 'Hist. Phys. des Plantes d'Europe' tome 2 1841 page 371. Wirtgen "Ueber Lythrum salicaria und dessen Formen" 'Verhand. des naturhist. Vereins fur preuss. Rheinl.' 5 Jahrgang 1848 S. 7.) I will first briefly describe the three forms by the aid of Figure 4.10, which shows the flowers, six times magnified, in their natural position, with their petals and calyx on the near side removed.


This form can be at once recognised by the length of the pistil, which is (including the ovarium) fully one-third longer than that of the mid-styled, and more than thrice as long as that of the short-styled form. It is so disproportionately long, that it projects in the bud through the folded petals. It stands out considerably beyond the mid-length stamens; its terminal portion depends a little, but the stigma itself is slightly upturned. The globular stigma is considerably larger than that of the other two forms, with the papillae on its surface generally longer.

Charles Darwin

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